The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Walton returns to Hounds as defensive coordinator

Former linebacker still holds team record for career tackles

 

February 17, 2018

PORTALES — Roughly 20 years after Mike Walton's name became synonymous with Greyhound defense, it's happening again.

Walton, a two-time all-America linebacker and assistant with Eastern New Mexico University, is coming back to the Green and Silver as defensive coordinator. He said being closer to family and working with head coach Kelley Lee were chances he couldn't pass up.

"It's an opportunity to work for a guy I trust," said Walton, who left Portales after the 2006 season. "I wouldn't just come back for anybody."

As for Lee, Walton was the opportunity he couldn't pass up.

"It just worked out that we had the opening," Lee said, "and he was looking to get a little closer to home. I knew if we had the chance to get him, that's the direction we needed to go."

Walton started four years for the Greyhounds and still holds school records for tackles in a season (155) and career (515). He served three seasons as defensive coordinator at fellow Lone Star Conference school Angelo State, and was special teams coordinator at both of his Division I stops.

In his third season running Angelo State's defense, the Rams led the LSC in run defense and interceptions despite starting five sophomores.

"His defenses are always physically tough and sound," Lee said. "It seems like he really maximized the guys who played for him."

A three-time winner of the school's Greatest Greyhound award, Walton returns to a football program that is the same in just about as many ways as it is different.

"I think some of the values Coach (Bud) Elliott was pressing upon us as players are evident in the way they handle themselves on a daily basis," Walton said. "Obviously, the offense is similar. I think the culture they have is the same foundation as when I was there, so that's a comfort."

The team's on-campus stadium is the clear change from his Greyhound days, but Walton also gets the feeling administration better understands the role a football team and athletic department play into a school's overall success.

He'll even get a few reminders of his time at ENMU when he sees the roster. Defensive back Marquel Johnson of Huntington Beach, California, one of more than 50 signings earlier this month, is the son of former Greyhound cornerback and Walton teammate Tonmar Johnson.

"That in itself tells you where the program is," Walton said. "If a former player's willing to send his son there to play, it tells you what Coach Lee has been able to do with the program in a lot of different ways."

Walton said he's looking forward to running into the same people who knew him as a player and assistant, but he's already gotten a taste. An old friend in the university's human resources department recognized his name during the process and the two had a 30-minute conversation to catch up.

"The one thing that doesn't change is there's a foundation of good people," Walton said. "It's going to be great to be around good people. Hopefully, they'll want to keep me around a while."

 
 

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